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Bernie Sanders Draws Thousands to Rally in Richmond

Vermont Senator and presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders address the crowd at the Arthur Ashe Athletic Center in Richmond on Thursday.
Vermont Senator and presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders addressed a crowd at the Arthur Ashe Athletic Center in Richmond on Thursday. (Photo: Crixell Matthews/VPM)

In an effort to recruit more support ahead of Super Tuesday, presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders rallied thousands in Richmond on Thursday.

Indie artist and Richmond native Lucy Dacus and the No BS! Brass Band energized the crowd before the 78-year-old Vermont Senator took the stage at the Arthur Ashe Athletic Center. 

Sanders began his speech telling the audience that President Donald Trump is a fraud, failing to meet his promise to expand access to healthcare and create a fair tax system. He promised to address the issues that President Trump hasn’t, getting rid of "tax cuts for billionaires" to fund Medicare For All.

“The reason that the American people are going to reject Donald Trump is because they are looking around them and seeing a reality they don’t like,” Sanders said. “They’re seeing today three people in America owning more wealth than the bottom half of American society.”

A recent  Monmouth University poll of likely Democratic voters in Virginia shows Sanders tied with former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg at 22 percent. But the poll also shows only about a quarter are firmly set on their choice.

Sanders took aim at his opponents Thursday, including Bloomberg.

“Bloomberg has every right to run for president, but he doesn’t have the right to buy the presidency,” he said. 

Sanders also criticized former Vice President Joe Biden, saying he won’t win over new voters with a traditional Democratic agenda. Sanders said he plans to build a diverse coalition around expanding access to healthcare, education and jobs that pay a living wage.

“A lot of my critics, a lot of my Democratic opponents say, ‘Oh, Bernie is so radical,’” he said. “To say that all of our working people have a right to live with dignity and security ain't radical.”

Supporters at the Richmond rally, many of them young people, said they planned to vote for Sanders because he seems to be the most genuine Democratic candidate. 

George Knight, 24 of Richmond, said he waited in line for eight hours to get a spot in the front row.

“He’s the only one who has consistently stood for the working class, he’s the only one who has consistently stood up for racial justice, for gender equality,” Knight said.

Others at the rally said they remained undecided heading into the Tuesday primary. 

Christin Reyes, 38 of Richmond, who says climate change is the most important issue to her, has flipped back and forth between Sanders and Warren. She said despite the media narrative that Sanders isn’t electable, she isn’t concerned about his ability to carry Democrats and even some Trump supporters in a general election.

“I think Donald Trump made a lot of promises about change and wanting to do it differently, but he just brought more of the same,” Reyes said. “I think people are disgusted with that and they want someone who will bring actual change.”

The Virginia Democratic presidential primary is Tuesday, March 3. Virginia is one of several states participating in primaries on Super Tuesday, including Alabama, North Carolina and Texas.